Bold Angel by Kat Martin (audiobook) – Narrated by Lucy Rayner

bold-angel

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

They were enemies in a divided land…

Saxon beauty Caryn of Ivesham longed to escape the chill gray cloisters of the convent to which she’d fled – but not in marriage to the towering, feared Raolfe de Gere, the Norman knight they called Ral the Relentless. Even though he had once saved her from a fate worse than death, she could not forget he’d raised the grim battlements of Braxston keep on her dead father’s lands or that his men had dishonoured her sister. If she wed him to bring peace to her people, he would have to lay siege to her bed. But their destiny was more powerful than the clash of swords. The darkly handsome warlord’s blood coursed with desire for Caryn’s burnished crimson lips, and his passion would not be denied. But in the wild ecstasy they shared Ral feared more than his heart was in danger. Could his rebellious bride be a traitor deadlier than the wolves and brigands prowling deep in English forests?

Rating: Narration – C; Content – D

I suppose I should have known what I was letting myself in for when I read the title and synopsis of Bold Angel:

“Saxon beauty Caryn of Ivesham longed to escape the chill gray cloisters of the convent to which she’d fled-but not in marriage to the towering, feared Raolfe de Gere, the Norman knight they called Ral the Relentless.”

It goes on to tell how the

“darkly handsome warlord’s blood coursed with desire for Caryn’s burnished crimson lips”

… yeah, I should probably have moved on at that point, but I had decided I wanted to listen to Lucy Rayner, who has been listed as the narrator of several Julia Quinn romances being released in December (Splendid, Dancing at Midnight and Minx), in order to get an idea of her abilities and performance style.

The result is a mixed bag. It probably didn’t help that the story is unoriginal and the heroine made me want to wring her neck for pretty much the entire (seemingly interminable) fourteen hours and forty minutes of the audiobook. And I couldn’t help thinking that Ms. Rayner’s crystal-clear tones – while not unpleasant – are rather too bright for a romance. I kept expecting her to shout “jolly hockey sticks!” à la Joyce Grenfell whenever things got heated, difficult or angsty.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Untouchable Earl (Fallen Ladies #2) by Amy Sandas

cvr-untouchable-earl_-sourcebooks-casablanca

This title may be purchased from Amazon

He’s a reclusive Earl with a painful secret that’s kept him from knowing a lover’s touch. She’s a sheltered debutante tired of living by society’s rules. But when she’s forced from the ballroom to the brothel, Lily discovers the dark thrill of falling from grace…and into the arms of a man who could destroy her as easily as he saved her.

Lily Chadwick has spent her life playing the respectable debutante. But when an unscrupulous moneylender snatches her off the street and puts her up for auction at a pleasure house, she finds herself in the possession of a man who fills her with breathless terror and impossible yearning.

Though the Earl of Harte claimed Lily with the highest bid, he hides a painful secret―one that has kept him from knowing the pleasure of a lover’s touch. Even the barest brush of skin brings him physical pain, and he’s spent his life keeping the world at arm’s length. But there’s something about Lily that maddens him, bewitches him, compels him…and drives him toward the one woman brave and kind enough to heal his troubled heart.

Rating: D+

The character – usually the hero – who, for some reason is touch averse (doesn’t like being touched, touching others or both) is not uncommon in historical romance, although I have yet to see that particular plotline played out convincingly.  Most recently, the hero of Kerrigan Byrne’s The Highwayman had a history that fully explained his dislike of being touched and his reasons for not wanting to touch the heroine, but even so, his problem was solved reasonably easily once he fell in love.  Lazarus, Lord Caire, in Elizabeth Hoyt’s first Maiden Lane book, Wicked Intentions had a similar problem that was also solved rather too conveniently once he’d met and fallen for his heroine.

Avenell Slade, Earl of Harte (and when will authors learn that those sorts of names for men in Regency England are too way out to be believeable? Plus the idea of the heroine panting “Avenell, do it to me Avenell!” in bed is just too ridiculous!) has reached the age of twenty-four without having experienced the touch of another person that didn’t hurt him.  But he realises he isn’t going to be able to live his life without at the very least being able to stop himself flinching every time someone touches him, even accidentally.  I admired him for the fact that he had the sense to realise he couldn’t go on like that, and for deciding he needed to seek a solution. He therefore heads to a discreet, high-class  brothel, and confesses his problem to the madam, explaining that he needs to learn how to at least bear the touch of another person.  He’s a virgin (obviously, given his condition), but at this point, having sex is the least of his worries.  He does, however, also want to learn about pleasure and how to give it – and naturally a brothel is going to be able to help with that 😉

Given this set up, I thought that perhaps I was going to be reading  a story in which – at last – the hero’s touch aversion was going to be realistically dealt with and solved… but alas, I was disappointed, and here was yet another instance of the hero’s being miraculously cured by the touch of the Right Woman.

The three Chadwick sisters are struggling to keep afloat financially following their father’s death.  That nice man left them with a massive gambling debt, and in the previous book, Luck Is No Lady, we met the eldest sister, Emma, who had a plan to pay off the debt and get them out of trouble.  As The Untouchable Earl takes place concurrently with the first book, that plan has not yet succeeded, so the bad guys are still out to get their money.  Readers may recall that the man who is owed the debt – one Mason Hale – was presented as a bad-guy-with-a-heart (sort of) as he needs the money in order to pay off the opium-addicted mother of his daughter to bring the girl to him so he can care for her.  I assume the author means the reader to feel conflicted about this character, and I did – but I’m not really sure where she’s going with it.

Anyway.  Our heroine in this book is the middle Chadwick sister, Lily and from the minute she sets  eyes on the gorgeous but dangerously aloof Earl of Harte at a ball, she’s immediately drowning in a sea of insta-lust and the reader is treated to lots of descriptions of tingling skin and fluttering bellies and hitching breath and all that stuff.  Lily regards herself as the boring sister – and I can’t say that I disagree with her assessment, as her life seems to consist of reading naughty books and dreaming about being one of the heroines therein and not much else.

Soon after the first meeting of eyes across a crowded ballroom, Lily is kidnapped by Hale and taken to the very brothel at which Avenell had sought help, where she is drugged and put up for auction.  Naturally, Avenell is there, and naturally he is the highest bidder.

It’s obvious where this is going, but the story ends up being little more than a string of lengthy love scenes that are not terribly sexy and are full of those same flutterings and tinglings and sparks and hot breathiness and honestly, I got fed up after the first couple and started skim reading them, which is never a good sign.

The writing throughout is decent, but there is no character development, both principals are little more than one dimensional and there is no sense of any emotional connection or chemistry between them.  Avenell had the potential to be an interesting hero, but Lily is one of the blandest heroines I’ve come across in ages.  I’ve read some lately who have irritated the crap out of me, but Lily is just… meh.  I also couldn’t buy the idea that a gently-born young woman would so easily suggest becoming a man’s mistress at a time when a woman’s reputation was everything and once lost could never be mended.  And once they do start making the beast with two backs, there is no mention of possible pregnancy or attempt at preventing it.

I normally try to avoid giving spoilers in my reviews, but I think the reason for Avenell’s issues with being touched need to be mentioned here, as it’s such an integral part of the story.  We’re told that as a child he suffered a serious and lingering illness that left him with some sort of nerve damage in the upper part of his body, so that anything that touches him on those parts of his body causes him pain.  It’s a sad story, because as a result of his reluctance to be touched, those who were supposed to be caring for him believed him to be wayward and attention seeking and dismissed him and his suffering.  But of course, right at the end, Avenell is Cured by the Love of a Good Woman, and in the last few pages learns that his issues are mostly psychosomatic because he got so used to the pain that he expected to feel it, and so he did.

I rolled my eyes so hard…

As is obvious, I’m not recommending The Untouchable Earl, which is, ultimately, a rather dull book with flat characters, a lacklustre romance and no storyline to speak of. I will normally give an author a couple of chances to impress me before I give up (unless the first book I read is so utterly dire that I can’t face another one!) – and as this is the second book I have read by Amy Sandas that hasn’t impressed me, I doubt I’ll be trying a third.

The Chevalier (Chateaux and Shadows #3) by Philippa Lodge

the-chevalier

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Emmanuel, Chevalier de Cantière, youngest son of a baron, is happiest raising horses far from his complicated family. When news comes his mother is deathly ill, he races to her side only to find she has apparently recovered and moved on, leaving behind her companion, Catherine.

Catherine de Fouet blends into the background, saving up so she’ll never have to wait on waspish, scheming old ladies like the baronesse again. She has no interest in a resentful gentleman, estranged from his mother, no matter how broad his shoulders or intriguing the wounded soul behind his handsome face. She just needs someone to escort her back to Versailles.

But Catherine is suspected of poisoning the baronesse. She rebuffs a pushy courtier who tries to use blackmail to make her his mistress, and her reputation hangs by a thread.

The chevalier wants more than anything to protect this woman whose prickly exterior hides sweetness and passion. They need his family to help him through court intrigues—almost as much as they need each other.

Rating: D+

The Chevalier is the third book in Ms. Lodge’s Châteaux and Shadows series, which is set in late seventeenth century France at the time of the reign of Louis XIV.  In my review of the previous book, The Honorable Officer, I wrote that I had primarily selected it because there is a dearth of historical romance set in that country and that time period (that is written in English), and noted that while the author did a decent job with the mystery storyline therein, the romance was somewhat wooden and underdeveloped. When The Chevalier was offered for review I decided to try it based once again on my liking for the time and setting and in the hope that perhaps the romance might be stronger and more, well, romantic.

Hélas, I’m about to level the same criticisms at this book as at the last one.

This story takes place around twelve years after the events of the previous book, and our hero is Emmanuel de Cantière, the youngest son of the Baron and Baronesse de Brosse.  We learned in The Honorable Officer that Emmanuel – Manu – is considerably younger than his brothers, and that his relationship with his parents is a difficult and complicated one.  His mother and father are estranged, and the baron removed Manu from his mother’s care when he was twelve or thirteen in order for him to be brought up in an environment more suited to a young man.  This continues to be a source of much resentment between the de Brosses and Manu is still filled with animosity, guilt and other conflicting emotions about both his parents.

Manu now resides at one of his father’s properties in Poitou, where he lives quietly, breeding horses.  An urgent message from his father’s house, telling him that his mother is seriously ill, sees him travelling as quickly as he can in response – but when he arrives, he is astonished to discover that she has recovered and is en route to Paris.  His astonishment turns to fury at the thought that she hadn’t bothered to wait for him and he decides to set out after her – and he is further displeased by the information that he can escort his mother’s companion – who had also fallen ill and has just recovered – back to the Baronesse’s side.

Catherine de Fouet is quiet, unassuming and content to fade into the background until she has put aside enough money from her employment and can afford to return to her home in Normandy. She is not completely recovered when she makes the difficult and uncomfortable journey to Versailles – a journey made worse by Monsieur de Cantière’s bad temper and obvious disdain for her.

After Manu and Catherine arrive and are reunited with the Baronesse, there is a lot of filler involving the various members of the family, their rambunctious offspring, a young man who makes improper advances towards Catherine… and eventually, at well past the half-way point, we come to the poisoning which is mentioned in the book’s blurb. It seems that the Baronesse has been ill, on and off, over the past year, and when she is taken ill again, the doctor declares that she has been poisoned. The blurb also says that Catherine is suspected of poisoning her mistress, but it’s all very low key; there is no investigation, no tension and absolutely no drama about this, even though the Affair of the Poisons, which saw a number of high-profile courtiers arrested on charges of poisoning and witchcraft, was in full swing at the time the book is set. I had hoped for more focus on this aspect of the plot, but it feels as though it’s there as an afterthought and isn’t developed or explored at all.

Something else which isn’t developed or explored is the romance between Catherine and Manu, which just… appears. They spend very little time together on the page, and even less time together alone. There is no sense that these two people are getting to know each other; all we get is Catherine looking at Manu and sighing over the breadth of his shoulders and Manu feeling a touch of lust for his mother’s companion, and then, hey presto! they’re in love. There is zero romantic tension between them and no emotional connection whatsoever.

The previous book in this series benefitted from a solidly written mystery element to the storyline, but without something similar to hold this one together, and without anything resembling strong characterisation, engaging protagonists or a decently written romance, The Chevalier is just a seemingly endless succession of flat, uninteresting scenes between the members of the de Cantière family. I really wanted to like it, but I didn’t and can’t recommend it.

The Trouble with Being Wicked (Naughty Girls #1) by Emma Locke (audiobook) – Narrated by Marian Hussey

the trouble with being wicked audio
This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon.

HE PUT HER ON A PEDESTAL
When Celeste Gray arrives in the sleepy village of Brixcombe-on-the-Bay, she thinks she’s one step closer to leaving her notorious past behind. She even suspects the deliciously handsome–if somewhat stuffy–viscount next door is developing a tendre for her. That is, until the day Ashlin Lancester learns she’s not the unassuming spinster she’s pretending to be.

NOW SHE HAS FARTHER TO FALL
After a decade of proving he is nothing like his profligate father, Ash is horrified to have given his heart to a Cyprian. He launches a campaign to prove his attraction is nothing more than a sordid reaction he can’t control. But he soon learns that unlike his father, he can’t find comfort in the arms of just any woman. He needs Celeste. When he takes her as his mistress, he’s still not satisfied, and the many late nights in her arms only make him want more…

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – D

I decided to review The Trouble with Being Wicked solely on the strength of narrator Marian Hussey whose work has impressed me in the past. I was also quite intrigued by the book synopsis, which tells of a romance between an ex-courtesan and an uptight, very proper young viscount who is so desperate to put his tragic family history behind him that he has become a complete killjoy and is gradually suffocating his sisters with his over-protectiveness.

Celeste Gray is the most sought after courtesan in London but, at thirty-three, is tired of that life and wants to leave it behind. Having amassed herself a considerable fortune over the past eighteen years, she purchases a cottage in a small village called Brixcombe-on-the-Bay in Devon and travels there with her very pregnant friend, Elizabeth, with a view to making her home there. The cottage’s former owner, Ashlin Lancester, Viscount Trestin, comes over to see how the ladies are settling in and immediately senses that not all is as it seems. I have no idea how, but he determines that Elizabeth is not a respectable married lady and is extremely disgruntled because of the lustful thoughts Celeste inspires. Because of course it’s her fault for being so shaggable, and nothing to do with Ash at all.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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How I Married a Marquess (Secret Lives of Scoundrels #3) by Anna Harrington

How I Married a Marquess

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

A SHOCKING DECEPTION . . .
Josephine Carlisle, adopted daughter of a baron, is officially on the shelf. But the silly, marriage-minded misses in the ton can have their frilly dresses and their seasons in London, for all she cares. Josie has her freedom and her family . . . until an encounter with a dark, devilishly handsome stranger leaves her utterly breathless at a house party. His wicked charm intrigues her, but that’s where it ends. For Josie has a little secret . . .

. . . LEADS TO AN EXQUISITE SEDUCTION
Espionage was Thomas Matteson, Marquess of Chesney’s game-until a tragic accident cost him his career. Now to salvage his reputation and return to the life he loves, the marquess must find the criminal who’s been robbing London’s rich and powerful. He’s no fool-he knows Josie, with her wild chestnut hair and rapier-sharp wit, is hiding something and he won’t rest until he unravels her mysteries, one by one. But he never expected to be the one under arrest-body and soul . . .

Rating:D+

This is the third book in Anna Harrington’s Secret Life of Scoundrels trilogy which follows three men who served together during the Napoleonic Wars as they find love and a happily ever after. I reviewed the previous book, Along Came a Rogue, and while I had some issues with the pacing and certain aspects of the plot, I enjoyed it overall and felt that the two leads shared a strong emotional connection. I was therefore eager to read the final book in the series, but oh, dear – what a disappointment.

I reckon that approximately seventy-five percent of How I Married a Marquess is comprised on the following: intense make-out sessions, sex scenes and mental-lusting by the bucket-load. Actually, I suspect that’s a conservative estimate. The story, such as it is, is buried beneath the shed-load of “how could he make her feel this way?”s and “no other woman had ever had this effect on him”s (my paraphrases); the hero is a selfish git for much of the story and the heroine has way too many TSTL moments.

We met Thomas Matteson, Marquess of Chesney in the last book, when he was shot and critically injured. This story takes place around a year later, but while he has fully recovered physically, he is suffering from what I can only suppose is a form of PTSD, because he is plagued by recurring nightmares, jumps at loud noises and has panic attacks, which he generally wards off by shagging whichever of his current paramours is to hand.

What he wants, more than anything, is to get his old life back. Following his army service, he worked for the War Office as a spy, but since his injury it seems that intelligence work is not an option as word has spread that he has ‘lost his nerve’. So when the Earl of Royston contacts him to ask for his help in apprehending a highwayman who is robbing his houseguests and promises that he will pull some strings at the War Office in return, Thomas jumps at the chance to prove himself and heads off to Royston’s country estate in Lincolnshire to join the house party.

On his first evening there, he encounters Josephine, daughter of Lord and Lady Carlisle, and is immediately and strongly attracted to her. He likes her intelligence and her spirit and wants her with a ferocity he’s never before felt for any woman; but he is intent on getting his life back and has no interest in any permanent attachment, which is, of course, the only type of attachment possible when the lady in question is, well, a lady.

But Josephine has secrets, and her first conversation with Thomas spooks her badly when she realises he is the sort of man who will be able to discover them. How she knows this when she’s known him for less than five minutes, I have no idea, but there it is. She tries to avoid him, but the pull of his heated sapphire gaze and overall gorgeousness is too much for her to resist, their first kiss takes place the next morning and after that, they’re snogging each other silly at almost every opportunity. I counted four make-out sessions by the 40% mark, and my Goodreads update says: “Some authors need to learn that sometimes, less is more and that there is more to creating sexual tension than having your H/h sucking face every ten pages.”

Although Josephine has been brought up by the Carlisles, she is actually an orphan, adopted by them when she was six. Not surprisingly, she is committed to helping the orphans that remain at the Good Hope Orphanage and has discovered that Royston, who is the patron, has some sort of scheme going on whereby he arranges for the by blows of the nobility to be placed there in return for political favours. Having no proof, she can’t expose him, so instead she does what she can for the place financially… and I don’t think it will come as any surprise when Jo’s Big Secret is revealed.

That is pretty much the extent of the plot. Thomas wants Jo to give up her dangerous hobby, she refuses. Even when she is almost caught, she still refuses, and then ignores his clear instructions to lay low – which are, admittedly, a bit heavy-handed, but nonetheless expressed in terms of concern for her safety. That’s an excursion way too far into TSTL territory in my book. Mind you, Thomas isn’t any more likeable. He’s quite sexy in a dark, brooding “I must have you NOW!” kind of way, and on the few occasions he gets to show his Sooper Spy Skillz, it’s obvious he was good at his job. But his focus is so firmly on returning to his life as a spy that for most of the book, Jo runs a poor second to that ambition, even though her sexual healing miraculously cures his PTSD.

It’s clear from the previous novel in the series that Anna Harrington can write, knows how to tell a story and can create attractive characters. Towards the end of this book, Thomas’ plan to thwart Royston, keep Jo out of danger and rescue a wrongly-imprisoned man is well-written and fun to read, but it’s too little too late. Otherwise, How I Married a Marquess has little plot to speak of, the central characters are unappealing and practically the entire book revolves around sex. If Thomas and Josephine aren’t doing it, then they’re thinking about it, and my eyes started to glaze over every time they started an internal monologue about how attractive the other person was and how much they wanted to roger them stupid. I like a bit of steam as much as the next person, but there needs to be an appropriate build up, and that just isn’t present. There is hardly any sexual tension between the couple because they get into the sexual situations so quickly, and there is no sense of any deeper emotional connection between them.

At this point in a review, I might normally sum up by saying something like “if you enjoyed the author’s other books, then you might like this one”, but given that I’ve enjoyed other books by Ms. Harrington and didn’t enjoy this one, I’m not going to. In fact, I think that anyone who enjoyed her other books is likely to be disappointed.

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How the Duke Was Won by Lenora Bell

How the Duke Was Won

This title may be purchased from Amazon

The pleasure of your company is requested at Warbury Park. Four lovely ladies will arrive… but only one can become a duchess.

James, the scandalously uncivilized Duke of Harland, requires a bride with a spotless reputation for a strictly business arrangement. Lust is prohibited and love is out of the question.

Four ladies. Three days. What could go wrong?

She is not like the others…

Charlene Beckett, the unacknowledged daughter of an earl and a courtesan, has just been offered a life-altering fortune to pose as her half-sister, Lady Dorothea, and win the duke’s proposal. All she must do is:

* Be the perfect English rose [Ha!]

* Breathe, smile, and curtsy in impossibly tight gowns [blast Lady Dorothea’s sylph-like figure]

* Charm and seduce a wild duke [without appearing to try]

* Keep said duke far, far from her heart [no matter how tempting]

When secrets are revealed and passion overwhelms, James must decide if the last lady he should want is really everything he needs. And Charlene must decide if the promise of a new life is worth risking everything . . . including her heart.

Rating:D

I was only a few pages into reading this début novel from Lenora Bell when I had to ask myself why I’d requested a review copy in the first place. It’s part of the book reviewer’s job to give new authors a try, but I think that probably the alarm bells should have started ringing the minute I read in the synopsis that the heroine’s name is Charlene. In 19th century England. Not only does that appear to be a name that didn’t originate until the 20th century, it’s not one that has really taken off here. Even the two minutes research I have just done revealed both those facts immediately.

And the rest of How the Duke Was Won is littered with similarly obtrusive implausibilities. If you’re someone who demands at least a modicum of historical accuracy – or even the briefest nod in its direction – in an historical romance, then is absolutely not the book for you.

Even though Charlene Beckett is the bastard daughter of an earl, she was born and brought up in the bawdy house kept by her mother. Opting not to become a courtesan, she much prefers to do the laundry and sundry other chores than earn her living on her back, and is desperate to protect her fifteen year-old half-sister, Lulu from the clutches of their evil landlord, Lord Grant.

James, the Duke of Harland – also known as His Disgrace (geddit?) – is quite possibly the most unconventional (and I don’t mean that in a good way) duke I’ve ever come across in an historical romance – and I’ve read a lot of ‘em. He is a reprobate of the first order, of course, and only returned to England recently following the deaths of his father – who more or less threw him out and banished him to the family plantation in Trinidad – and older brother. James’ ambition is to produce cocoa that is affordable by all (because there weren’t enough problems relating to poverty, child labour and social inequality in 19th century England) and to that end, plans to remain only long enough to find himself a wife whose father has sufficient political clout to aid James in his fight to reduce import taxes and outlaw slavery in the colonies. He wants a quiet, demure, biddable woman who won’t make a fuss when he buggers back off to the West Indies and only turns up on her doorstep when it’s time to get busy making heirs and spares.

And they say that romance is dead.

Or at the very least, and in the case of this book, it’s in intensive care and flatlining.

James decides that the fastest and best way to find such a wife is to invite the top candidates to his country house and then make his choice; so along trot four of the loveliest and most worthy ladies of the ton and their mamas, with no concern whatsoever about the propriety of an all-female house party under the roof of a single man.

Little does he know that one of the ladies is an imposter. Charlene is the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Desmond and is a dead-ringer for her half-sister, Lady Dorothea Beaumont, who is currently travelling home from Italy. Not wanting her daughter to miss out on the change of nabbing a duke, Lady Beaumont offers Charlene a thousand pounds if she will pose as Dorothea for a few days and then ensure that she and his grace are found in a compromising position so that he will have no alternative but to offer for her.

Charlene wonders how on earth she is going to carry out such a deception, being not at all the sort of shy, retiring young lady the duke is sure to want; but the money will enable her to pay off her mother’s debts, to find an apprenticeship for Lulu and to start her own boarding house for young, down-on-their-luck women who might otherwise end up on the streets, so she agrees.

Naturally, from the moment they meet, James and Charlene can’t keep their eyes – and hands – off each other, both being struck down with a severe case of insta-lust. Given that the entire story takes place over two or three days, the speed at which the couple falls in love is enough to induce a severe case of whiplash. There is no emotional connection between them and no sexual chemistry to speak of, either.

James is a crusader who believes in fair play and fair pay; everyone in his manufactories, whether in England or Trinidad, earns fair wages, and the instant Charlene stumbles across one of his factory managers trying to molest a young female worker, James has the man by the throat and gives him his marching orders. Both these things are admirable, but, as is the case in the entire novel, the sensibilities are very firmly rooted in the 21st century and the tone is way too modern. Charlene is an independently spirited young woman who insists that she doesn’t want to “be owned” by any man – which again is a very 21st century way of looking at the patriarchal nature of the society of the 19th. She also knows Ju-Jitsu (learned from their Japanese bouncer), is a vocal advocate of gender equality, and is able to turn James’ illegitimate, mixed-race and temperamental six-year-old daughter into a little angel within hours.

Romance novels are, by their very nature, escapist, and as such are bound to contain elements which stretch the readers’ credulity from time to time. This is possibly the case with historicals more than any other sub-genre, because for one thing, there were – and still are – only a handful of actual dukes in England; and while it did happen that sometimes a peer crossed class boundaries and married outside his station, it was extremely rare. So yes, there are going to be various things in historical romances that are implausible or just plain anachronistic, and I am certainly not saying that every book that dares to call itself an “historical” romance should be 100% historically accurate. But there does need to be SOME degree of historical veracity involved, and there’s almost none in this book, which has no sense of either time or place. I can accept a degree of unconventionality in an historical, and a good author will be able to craft her stories and characters in such a way as to enable me to suspend my disbelief at whatever liberties she is taking. But in How the Duke Was Won the author piles implausibility upon implausibility, stretching the readers’ credulity well beyond breaking point, and there is nothing sufficiently engaging in the writing, storytelling or characters to allow the reader to concentrate on something other than the book’s shortcomings and is, unfortunately, not a good enough storyteller to be able to paper over the cracks. The characters are flat and uninteresting, the romance is non-existent and it will therefore come as no surprise when I say I’m not going to recommend it.

Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires by Sophie Barnes (audiobook) – Narrated by Rebecca Rogers

Lady Sarah's sinful desires

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

There are thousands of things Christopher, Viscount Spencer, would rather do than hunt for a bride, especially since experience has taught him that women are not to be trusted. Then he finds the intriguing Lady Sarah scrambling around in Thorncliff’s conservatory and he is instantly charmed by her passionate nature. But why is she so intent on avoiding him?

Lady Sarah would make the perfect bride for a peer—if not for a tarnished past that she’s hiding from the ton. A stay at Thorncliff Manor was meant to help her plan for her future, not fall in love. Yet Christopher’s kisses are irresistible, his gallantry enticing. When her secret stands to be revealed, will the truth ruin their dreams of happiness?

Rating: Narration – D; Content – D

Sometimes – if you’re lucky – you can start a book or audio and know pretty much straight away that you’re going to enjoy it. And sometimes – if you’re UNlucky – you pick one up and immediately know the opposite. That’s what happened to me when I started listening to Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires. In the (almost) three years I’ve been reviewing for AudioGals, I think I’ve only DNFed one, perhaps two titles, but this came close to being the third. I know part of the reviewer’s lot is to take the rough with the smooth, so along with the “OMG, awesome!” listens, there are going to be a proportion of “Meh, okay, but won’t listen again” ones. This one, however, was one of the “OMG, why am I subjecting myself to this?” kind.

(The answer to that question, by the way, is so that I can tell you, dear readers, which audiobooks to avoid with a ten-foot pole. Or, in this case, a twenty-foot one.)

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals. Sadly, it won’t make the book any better, but it might afford you a laugh or two.

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